According to a 2010 report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, a growing number of companies are requiring that job candidates possess a bachelor's degree. The study, "Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018," states that 9 percent of jobs required a bachelor's degree in 1970, while 40 percent required only a high school diploma. By 2018, those numbers are projected to be 23 percent and 28 percent, respectively. The same report states that, by 2018, an estimated 63 percent of jobs will require some form of college degree. Given this insight, having a postsecondary credential like a bachelor's degree could be greatly beneficial in securing a job.
Bachelor’s programs generally take four years to complete, unless a student has earned an associate degree beforehand. There are two primary types of degrees available at the bachelor's level: a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a Bachelor of Sciences (B.S.).
- B.A. degrees are usually earned by students interested in working in liberal arts fields such as education, English, or psychology.
- B.S. degrees typically focus on technical coursework for people interested in entering fields such as mathematics, business, or criminal justice.
From accounting to graphic design, bachelor's degrees are available in a wide range of subject areas, some that take longer to complete than others. While traditionally thought of as a four-year program, a 2011 article by The New York Times reports that 45 percent of full-time bachelor's degree students take five or six years to graduate. Reasons cited for the greater length of study include the fact that more students are working while attending school, as well as overcrowding on campuses, which can make it hard for students to get into the courses they need to graduate.
Online bachelor's degree programs may be able to help students stay on track to finish in four years. With the potential to offer flexible scheduling and less enrollment limits, online bachelor's degrees can let students sign up for classes without delay, and complete them at their own pace.
Bachelor's degrees normally offer a more comprehensive education than associate degrees, which tend to be more career-focused. This targeted nature can sometimes make it difficult for associate degree holders to branch out into other fields over the course of their career.
With a bachelor's degree, graduates may pursue a wide range of potential careers. Some occupations, however, have better job outlooks than others. Two of the fastest-growing careers that typically require bachelor's degrees are biomedical engineers and meeting, convention and event planners. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts national employment in these fields to increase by 62 percent and 44 percent, respectively, between 2010 and 2020. These rates are more than three times faster than the average of all occupations.
Those with bachelor's degrees may also earn more than their less educated peers. According to the BLS, bachelor's degree holders earned a national median weekly wage of $1,066 in 2012, while those with an associate degree earned $785.
In addition to pay, educational attainment has a significant influence on unemployment. Nationally, individuals with an associate degree experienced an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent in 2012, compared to just 4.5 percent for those with a bachelor's degree, the BLS reports.
While starting salaries for bachelor's degree holders vary, the Georgetown University report indicates that a college education often pays off over time. Citing data from 1970 to 2007, the authors write, "Given the transformation of workers by economic class, postsecondary education and training is no longer just the preferred pathway to middle and upper income classes -- it is, increasingly, the only pathway."
To learn more about available online bachelor degree programs, request information from one of the schools below.
Note: Bls.gov data is for individuals age 25 and older. Estimated earnings are for full-time workers.
"The Rise of the Five-Year Four-Year Degree," The New York Times, May 20, 2011, Judith Scott-Clayton, http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/20/the-rise-of-the-five-year-four-year-degree/
"Employment Projections: Education Pays," Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm
"Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018," Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith, Jeff Strohl, June 15, 2010, http://cew.georgetown.edu/jobs2018/
"Top-Paying Majors in 2012," National Association of Colleges and Employers, January 22, 2013, http://www.naceweb.org/Press/Releases/Top-Paying_Majors_in_2012.aspx?referal=pressroom&menuid=278
"Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-2013 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/meeting-convention-and-event-planners.htm
"Biomedical Engineers," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm
"Fastest Growing Occupations," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm